Over the course of 2012, this space will identify opportunities within customers’ homes that you may not have observed in the past. The opportunities are based on a recent homeowner survey conducted by Decision Analyst, Inc.

Q: What is happening relative to extended warranty sales, and customers’ perception of quality?

A: The new house market is stabilizing, or so my morning news program has stated. Being a new year, and possibly a return to a stabilized new house market, I wanted to share the new construction base line as revealed in the latest American Home Comfort report.

To begin with, nationally, virtually all newly built homes in the past two years include a central air conditioning system (7 in 10 AC, and 3 in 10 heat pumps). Even new homes with central boiler systems (seven in every 100 new homes) seem to include central air.

Half of all new homes began with central forced air heating (49%). For the past four years, 5% of all new homes began with a geothermal heat pump.

The Midwest remains the weakest market for heat pump placement in new homes, but has come a long way since 2004. Midwest new home heat pump sales in 2010 were at 22%; in 2008: 21%; in 2006: 14%; in 2004:10%.

The opportunity for HVACR contractors to meet with clients in the new home market is all over the place, and the information the new homeowner has about their HVAC system and the installing contractor could be much better than it is. Check your business plans in this area; if your market has stabilized, and is beginning to come back, this part of the industry could become viable to you again. In what ways can you improve your business with your new homeowner, knowing the following?

  • There are slightly more homeowners given an opportunity for an extended warranty, now than in earlier years, but most are still not given the chance to make a choice.
  • Two thirds of homeowners would give their installing contractor a chance to work on the system and/or to sell new systems after the warranty is over, but only four in ten know who the installing contractor was. In what positive ways are you assured you’re known to your new homeowner customer? It seems most who know their contractor may have called their contractor back about their system.
  • A strong third of all new home installations require a callback for the HVAC system, and one in 10 homeowners has real issues with the company that installed their new home system. Do you have a process you go through with the builder and/or homeowner that makes certain your installation is going to work?
  • While significantly fewer homeowners are under 35, and significantly more are over 54, the age of newly built home buyers hasn’t changed significantly in the past six years.
  • New home costs have declined since 2008 and 2006, but remain ahead of 2004 average prices.
  • Last but not least, more than half of all homeowners of newly-built homes don’t believe their HVAC systems and thermostats are in sync.

If you’re a part of the new residential construction market, or are thinking of adding it to your company’s business base, ask these questions:

  • Do you have a good working relationship with the builder(s)?
  • Have you and the builder built options that can be given the new home buyer? High efficiency system buyers are more satisfied with their systems, and more sophisticated central systems are better appreciated than standard systems.
  • Will he/she allow you to work with the homeowner before the sale and/or after?
  • What is your call-back record? How can you reduce your call-back record?

Here’s to a better 2012 for all!

Decision Analyst’s American Home Comfort Study of homeowners explores what customers look for in HVAC contractors. To learn more about this study, or to purchase it, contact Garry, at gupton@decisionanalyst.com.